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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Russell Adams,
Professor Paul Younger
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The recent closure of the South Crofty tin mine, the last working mine of this type in Europe, has raised questions over possible environmental consequences. During several centuries of operation, the mine was dewatered by a series of pumps located at different levels in the mine. Older workings near the ground surface were dewatered by a series of adits that discharge into nearby rivers and streams. The quality of water draining from these shallow workings is generally good and no treatment is required. However, because of bad experiences at the nearby Wheal Jane tin mine, the UK Environment Agency were concerned about the quality and quantity of water which was expected to discharge from the deeper workings when groundwater rebound was completed. In order to address this problem and make predictions of the timing and volume of the discharge, computer simulations using the SHETRAN/VSS-NET model have been carried out. This model has already been applied to the simulation of groundwater rebound in several UK coalfields. However, the hydrogeological characteristics of coal mines differ considerably from the South Crofty mine. In this mine, the country rocks comprise granite and metamorphic slates, strata that have negligible transmissivity and very low storativity. Most of the groundwater flow is therefore in the 'drives' and stopes from which tin ore was extracted. The inflows to the mine during its operation were mapped and quantified, and were found to be mainly head-dependent. These inflows usually originated from fault zones in the rock, and also from nearby disused and flooded workings, which surround the modern mine. Predictions of the water level during rebound are compared with the observed water levels in the main shaft which have been measured since the mine closed. The model was then used to predict the dates when surface discharges could be expected to commence. One of the main limitations of the predictions was a 'blank' depth interval in the mine plan records, which could be interpreted in two possible ways: (i) the zone was worked in the mid-nineteenth century but the plans were lost; or (ii) the zone was never worked. Local professional opinion favoured interpretation (i), and the prediction scenarios considered most probable were based on the assumption that mining-related specific yield values would be similar in this 'blank interval' to those applicable in better-mapped intervals below. In the event, (ii) above appears to have been the true case, resulting in a marked steepening of the rebound curve during the later stages of rebound, with surface discharge commencing in November 2000, as much as a year in advance of most other predictions. A retrospective simulation assuming very low specific yield in the 'blank interval' confirms that the hydrodynamics were otherwise successfully simulated using the SHETRAN/VSS-NET code.
Author(s): Adams R, Younger PL
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Geological Society Special Publication
ISSN (print): 0305-8719
Publisher: Geological Society Publishing House
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